The Difference Between Toning Up and Gaining Muscle

Last night when I wrote about exercise truths turned myths, and how health tips are always changing, I listed the main diet and health myths that came to my mind. One of those myths could be seen as confusing, as Freya and a couple others brought to my attention.

The Toning Myth:

The toning myth is that lifting very high reps with very low weight will tone you; and lifting heavier weights with very low reps will help you gain muscle.

This myth is a two-parter

  1. Muscle Fibers

Lifting low weights a lot of times over and over activates your slow twitch muscle fibers. In a nutshell, you won’t see too much “toning” happening with this kind of weight lifting. Perhaps at first you will, but soon your muscles will adapt to the low weights and your progress will hinder. In order to keep seeing more progress – or build more muscle– you’ll likely have to add on more weight. And yes, it’s true that you’ll likely see the biggest strength gains when lifting heavier weights.

2. Toning=Muscle Gaining

There’s really no difference between toning and gaining muscle. You can’t “tone” muscle or fat. You can only build muscle. When you think you’re just “toning,” you’re really building muscle (if you’re working hard enough for your fitness level, that is.) Plain and simple. So, when someone says they want to “tone up” what they’re really saying, whether they know it or not, is that they want to build some muscle. Some people, however, feel like they’re toned when they actually lose weight. When you lose fat, your muscle (even though there might not be any more of it than before you lost weight) is more easily seen. Some see this as looking more “toned.”

Moving on!

Hungry Hungry Paige-O

Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s move on to breakfast!


I thought up this breakfast on my way home from training this morning. I had a 7:00 client this morning, and spent the entire hour before I had to leave the house freaking out about a work deadline. Once the crisis was averted, I realized I took off without eating any breakfast. Oops.

I knew I wanted yogurt, and I knew I wanted oats. So, I put a 1/3 c. oats + 3/4 c. water in a measuring cup and microwaved it for 1:30. Then, I stirred in a little almond butter and honey, and topped it on about a 1/3 c. 2% plain Greek yogurt:


I swear there’s yogurt under there! This breakfast bowl was unbelievably good. It will definitely be a repeaterSmile

Time to seize the day and whatnot. Have a lovely one, friendly friends!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. My instructor at the gym is always yelling at us to add more weight to our exercises. Thank God for her, otherwise I’d still be using the 5lb body bar :)

  2. Interesting! I fall in that group that thinks that trimming down = toning up, precisely because I can “see” the muscle def more. I am going to work on this moreso after my marathon on 11/12, so for now, just keeping up training and short strength training sessions 4x/week.

  3. What an educational post. I definitely used to be part of the two pound dumbbell club. Now lifting is my favorite thing to do at the gym. You should do a weekly mythbuster post.

  4. I tried explaining this concept to a friend of mine over dinner the other night. She’s been doing weights for six months now and thinks she’s getting too “buff.” I told her she’s not going to look like a dude doing her regular routine and that definition is sexy, but you can only argue so much, right?

    I wish I would have read your post before I had breakfast. I couldn’t decide what to eat and this would have been perfect.

  5. I think this is the fitness myth that drives me most bonkers. Great job addressing it. :)

  6. Thank you!! That makes a tonne more sense now :-) Though I still wish I had heavier weights – I have stick arms! :p

  7. True. In order to build muscle, a person needs to increase the kg or lbs of the weights. It is recommended at least 2 weeks before increasing the weights.

  8. Toning up is all about diet, eat less to tone up and eat more to build muscle mass. If you don’t have muscle and you try to lose weight in order to tone up you will fail, because you need to build the muscle first. For me, I’ve always been skinny and so I had to focus on gaining muscle and gaining weight before I could even think about cutting up and looking tone.
    FitnessMac recently posted..Nepalese Shilajit 20% Fulvic Acid | 65 GramsMy Profile

  9. I was extremely pleased to discover this web site.

    I want to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!!

    I definitely savored every bit of it and I have you book marked to see new things on your
    is Adonis golden ratio real recently Adonis golden ratio realMy Profile

  10. Great Article, thanks for sharing your knowledge here. I will add your site on my my favorites!
    Paula recently posted..Suplementos para ganhar massa muscularMy Profile

  11. “Toning up is all about diet, eat less to tone up and eat more to build muscle mass. If you don’t have muscle and you try to lose weight in order to tone up you will fail, because you need to build the muscle first. ….”

    I’m sorry – but you’re an idiot. “Toning up is all about diet – eat less to tone up.” If that’s the case than everyone on a weight loss diet is getting toned by the minute – really? Re. “If you don’t have muscle …” Um…. if you don’t have muscle you is dead – dead dead dead. Want to rethink that one too?

    Tell me, what amino supplements do you take because if you’re working on getting “all cut up and looking toned” surely you know about sports nutrition – kind of like to supplement your views on eating less to get “toned.” And btw – “toned” is a concept born through media to keep women from getting scared of the words “building muscle.” There is no such thing as TONED … I could go on – …. Jesus.

Leave a Comment


CommentLuv badge